17 Human Error Statistics

Human error can have catastrophic consequences. Mistakes by people can shut down critical systems, expose sensitive information to unauthorized parties, or even lead to deaths. In this article, we’ll look at 17 human error statistics.

1. 74% of Data Breaches Involved the Human Element

When it comes to data breaches, people (aside from the hacker) play a significant role. 74% of data breaches involve the human errors – which can include errors in judgment, such as falling for a scam, system misconfiguration, and similar issues.

[Source: Verizon]

2. Human Error Is the Lead Cause in At Least 90% of Car Crashes

The lead cause in at least 90% of car accidents is actually human error. That can involve misjudging the safety of a particular behavior and making a mistake due to distracted driving.

[Source: Science Direct]

3. About 80% of Aircraft Accidents Occur Due to Human Error

As with vehicles, human error plays a substantial role in aircraft accidents. Approximately 80% of aircraft accidents are due to human error. That can include mistakes by pilots, maintenance mechanics, air traffic controllers, and other people involved in the operation or upkeep of airplanes.

[Source: Boeing]

4. Human Error Is Involved in Up to 96% of Marine Accidents

Between 75 and 96% of marine accidents can be traced back to human error, which can include mistakes during operation and when performing maintenance.

[Source: Allianz]

5. Medical Errors Cause More Than 250,000 American Deaths Annually

In the United States, research suggests that medical errors result in more than 250,000 deaths. However, since it’s believed that only 10 percent of medical errors are formally reported, the figure could be higher.

[Source: Johns Hopkins & National Library of Medicine]

6. Human Error Causes Over One-Third of Train Accidents in the US

While train accidents can have a variety of causes, human error is responsible for more than one-third of all US train accidents. The mistakes can occur due to a lack of knowledge, improper training, fatigue harming cognitive abilities, and more.

Other causes of train accidents can include mechanical failure, damaged rails, and other issues not connected directly to human judgment.

[Source: US Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration]

7.  80% of Major Construction Accidents Involve Human Error

The construction industry accounted for 46.2% of all fatal slip, trip, and fall accidents in the US in 2021. In the construction sector, human error is considered the root cause of 80% of major accidents. That includes workers taking unauthorized actions, non-compliance with applicable safety regulations, improper use of equipment, and more.

[Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics & National Library of Medicine]

8. 40% of Data Center Outages Are Human Error-Related

40% of incidents are caused by human error. Of human error-related outages, approximately 85% are due to data center staff members failing to follow outlined procedures or process and procedure flaws.

[Source: Uptime Institute]

9. Human Error Contributes to 23% of Unplanned Downtime in Factories

In the world of manufacturing, 23% of unplanned downtime has human error as a major contributing factor. This can include issues like improper operation of equipment leading to failure, failure to complete proper maintenance, and similar mistakes.

[Source: Engineering.com]

10. Over 60% of Pharmaceutical Mislabeling Recalls Stem from Human Error

Pharmaceutical product recalls occur when a production issue creates a potential safety hazard. In the pharmaceutical industry, over 60% of recalls involving mislabeling are connected to human error. Process inconsistencies, competence gaps, and reference information mistakes are some examples of how these missteps can occur.

[Source: Pharmaceutical Processing World]

11. 43% of Employees Believe They’ve Made Mistakes That Compromised Cybersecurity

In the workplace, mistakes by employees can leave companies vulnerable to cyberattacks. In a survey, 43% of employees stated they were either “very” or “pretty” sure they’ve made a misstep that could have cybersecurity ramifications for either their company or themselves.

Younger professionals seemed more inclined to admit they’ve potentially made a mistake. 50% of 18 to 30-year-olds said it was possible, while only 10% of employees above the age of 51 stated they likely made an error. The reason for the difference could be that younger workers may be more aware of their security position, though it’s also possible reluctance to admit a misstep among older workers plays a role.

[Source: Tessian]

12. 25% of Employees Admit to Falling for a Phishing Scam at Work

25% of professionals state they’ve interacted with a phishing link by mistake. Distraction was cited as a top reason for the error by 45% of those who engaged with a phishing scam at work, while perceived legitimacy was stated as a cause by 43% of survey respondents.

[Source: Tessian]

13. 58% of Employees Have Accidentally Sent an Email to the Wrong Person

Among professionals who responded to a survey, 58% stated they had sent an email to the wrong person by mistake. While sending an email to the incorrect recipient may seem like an innocent mistake, it can have repercussions. For example, it may expose sensitive information to an unauthorized party, lead to lost business, or even result in termination of employment.

The top reason cited for making such an error is fatigue. Feeling overwhelmed or being burned out essentially increases the likelihood of mistakes, as they can harm focus.

[Source: Tessian]

14. 75% of Data Loss Occurs Due to Human Error

75% of data loss is caused by human error. For example, accidentally deleting a file is a form of data loss, and it’s directly related to human error.

[Source: InvenioIT]

15. Up to 25% of Power Plant Failures Are Caused by Human Error

Power plant failures can cause a variety of issues, with the most obvious typically being service outages to part or all of the region the power plant supports. While power plant failures can occur for a variety of reasons, 20 to 25% are attributed to human error. Those mistakes lead to the loss of 30 million megawatt-hours of power generation annually.

[Source: Midwest ISO]

16. 64% of Insider Threats Are Caused by Human Error or Careless Behavior

While many would assume that intent to harm an organization is a leading cause of insider threat-related cybersecurity incidents, that isn’t the case. Instead, 64% are connected to human error or careless behavior on the part of an insider. For example, employees may accidentally expose company data by sharing files over unauthorized or unsecured systems.

Essentially, negligence and complacency are significant factors, as well as plain mistakes. Additionally, a lack of understanding of the risks of various actions can play a role.

[Source: Dtex]

17. Data Entry Mistakes Occur in 4% of Single Keyed Entries

With single-keyed data entry, errors occur in approximately 4% of records. While that seems nominal at a glance, it’s a significant number of mistakes. That means out of 100 entries, four would include errors. Out of 100,000 entries, 4,000 would have errors.

When it comes to data entry, accuracy is typically critical. Fortunately, error rates can fall below 0.037% when double-keyed or verified data entry processes are used instead. With those approaches, any entered data is functionally cross-checked for correctness, allowing for the identification of mistyped entries before the errors can cause issues.

[Source: OPIN Systems]

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Catherine Reed

Catherine Reed is a writer and researcher with experience writing about a wide variety of topics including personal finance, technology, and staffing.